The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU PhD candidate successfully defends thesis on the humanitarian arena of Lesvos

26 September 2022

Congratulations to DPU PhD candidate Andrew Knight who has successfully defended his thesis that reveals blurred boundaries between the study and practice of humanitarianism, tourism, and pilgrimage in Lesvos, Greece.

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Exploring the encounter between humanitarians and locals in Lesvos, his research turns attention away from the lives of refugees (which have been extensively documented) and contributes to a growing body of ethnographies of aid by developing a critical analysis of those who cross borders to “help”, “stand in solidarity” and “witness” the lives of refugees. Despite the presence of government agencies, NGOs, and civil society networks, the humanitarian infrastructure of Lesvos is dependent on the supply of mainly young, highly motivated yet short-term and unskilled volunteers. While their presence has been an economic boon on parts of the island, it has also caused significant social upheaval.

The thesis engages with processes of hospitality (and hostility), identity formation and labelling, and contributes to knowledge in the anthropology and geography of humanitarianism and tourism. Humanitarian and tourist imaginaries combine in Lesvos as a unique context for global northerners (and others) wishing to try or do humanitarian work, meet an exotic other, have a holiday or, all of the above, in the safety and relative familiarity of a Greek island. Through exploring emerging subjectivities in the humanitarian arena of Lesvos, he demonstrates the fluidity and intersecting nature of the socially constructed categories of “tourists” and “humanitarians” and tests the analytical binary of host and guest.